Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TOP STORY > >Report says enrollment is stagnant

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

According to a recent report, the Pulaski County Special School District has a hard time attracting new students, although that will probably not have an impact on Jacksonville’s chances of forming its own school district.

“I don’t think this year’s (Pulaski County) enrollment data will in any way change the picture for the Pulaski County Special School District as far as any agreement they have made concerning the proposed Jacksonville district,” Andree Roaf, director of the Office of Desegregation Monitoring, said this week.

“Of course, the real questions right now are one, is the 8th Circuit (Court of Appeals) ever going to rule on the ap-peal from Judge (Bill) Wilson’s declaration that the LRSD has achieved unitary status, and two, can the PCSSD achieve unitary status in turn, if this case does not settle in the coming weeks or months?” Roaf said, referring to PCSSD’s desire to have itself declared desegregated.

“The numbers did not change significantly from last year,” said Roaf, addressing the findings in the “2008-2009 Enrollment and Racial Composition of the Pulaski County Special School District Report.”

Many Jacksonville area residents have worked hard for years to form their own school district. With a unanimous vote, the district has endorsed the idea of a stand-alone district provided that it didn’t interfere with a court-enforced desegregation order.

Currently, the fast route for a stand-alone district is thought to require approval by Judge Wilson, who has said he wants to wait until the 8th Circuit rules.

The report did reflect enrollment increase of three-tenths of 1 percent at Pulaski County Special School District to 18,063, but again, that’s largely attributable to the opening of the new Chenal Elementary School.

For most of the last 21 years, overall PCSSD enrollment has declined while the African American share of the enrollment has increased.

Seven of the district’s 38 schools will exceed the maximum target of black enrollment with African Americans accounting for 87 percent of the enrollment at one school.

Blacks account for 44 percent of the total enrollment at PCSSD, making it the only one of the three Pulaski County districts that still has a majority white enrollment.

“The numbers did not change significantly from last year,” accor-ding to Andre Roaf, head of the office.

“PCSSD actually has a slight increase in overall enrollment, which we suggest is due to the additional students coming into the new Chenal Elementary from the other districts and the resulting increase in M-to-M enrollment.”

According to the report, 48 percent of all public school students in the county attend Little Rock schools, 34 percent attend PCSSD and 18 percent attend North Little Rock.

Of black students in the county, 59 percent attend Little Rock Schools, 26 percent attend North Little Rock and 18 percent attend PCSSD schools.

Most white students, 46 percent, attend PCSSD schools, with 37 percent attending Little Rock Schools and 18 percent at North Little Rock.

County wide, 58 percent of students are black, 42 percent are white.

Among PCSSD students, 56 percent are white, 44 percent black. Among Little Rock students, 68 percent are black, 32 percent black and in North Little Rock, 59 percent of enrollment is black, 42 percent white.

PCSSD enrollment this year fills only 63 percent of the total capacity, leaving 10,772 seats available.

Three PCSSD schools elementary schools had noteworthy gains in enrollment in contrast to the continuing decline district wide.

Enrollment increased at eight of the elementary schools in the district. Scott Elementary gained 35 percent in enrollment and 13 percent at both Sylvan Hills and Tolleson.

Brenda Bowles, director of equity services at PCSSD, says the district is about out of options for trying to improve the racial balances at schools that are out of compliance. “All I can do is better permit control,” Bowles said. “We’re not busing or splitting geocodes by race. I don’t want to bus people from one side of the highway to the other.”

“Somebody needs to talk about the boys and girls schools (Jacksonville’s two single-gender middle schools),” said. “They have some things going on there but some people think not. The community is split.”

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

Homer Adkins, which changed from an elementary to a pre-kindergarten in the 2006-2007 school year, lost seven students for a total of 99 students, 54 percent, black.

Arnold Drive Elementary School: decreased eight students to an enrollment of 257, 26 percent of whom are black.

Bayou Meto Elementary School: decreased two students to an enrollment of 379, 3 percent of whom are black.

Clinton Elementary School: decreased six students to enrollment of 759, 55 percent are black.

Warren Dupree Elementary School: decreased 26 students to 284, 48 percent of whom are black.

Harris Elementary School: decreased 13 students to 232, 87 percent of whom are black.

Jacksonville Elementary School: decreased five students to 537, 69 percent of whom are black.

Oakbrooke Elementary School: decreased 12 students to 504, 38 percent of whom are black.

Pinewood Elementary School: increased 26 students to 416, 53 percent of whom are black.

Scott Elementary School: increased 53 students to 206, 25 percent of whom are black.

Sherwood Elementary: decreased enrollment by one to 395, 37 percent of whom are black.

Sylvan Hills Elementary School: increased 40 students to 424, 45 of whom are black.

Murrell Taylor Elementary School: decrease0d 27 students to 407, 59 percent of whom are black.

Tolleson Elementary School: increased 42 students to 357, 32 percent of whom are black.

PCSSD elementary schools subtotal: increased 325 students to 9,741, 40 percent of whom are black.

MIDDLE SCHOOLS

Jacksonville Girls School: decreased 45 students to 360, 56 percent of whom are black.

Jacksonville Boys School: decreased 22 students to 356, 54 percent of whom are black.

Northwood Middle School: increased five students to 637, 39 percent of whom are black.

Sylvan Hills Middle School: remained at 667, 51 percent of whom are black.

HIGH SCHOOLS

Jacksonville High School has a decrease of 25 students to 1,047, 52 percent of whom are black.

North Pulaski High School decreased by 72 students to 548, 38 percent of whom are black.

Sylvan Hills High School has a decrease of five students to 914, 45 percent of whom were black.

PCSSD secondary schools subtotal shows a decrease of 278 to 8,322.

PCSSD school total: increase of 47 to 18,063, 44 percent of whom are black.